Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 3

Parliament chairman Vytautas Landsbergis and other officials of the governing Fatherland Union support a proposal to create a radio station in Lithuania which would broadcast to Belarus. Parliamentary deputy Rimantas Pleikys, who was Communications Minister until 1998, is the author of the plan and has applied to several foundations in democratic countries for funding. The proposed station would fill the need both for uncensored political information in Belarus and for broadcasts in the native language, which is being marginalized by Belarusan authorities in favor of Russian. According to its proponents, the station in Lithuania could penetrate the “Iron Curtain” which President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has created around Belarus to strengthen his rule and facilitate unification with Russia.

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas and the senior presidential adviser for foreign policy, Albinas Januskas, are said to oppose the plan. They take the view–as Saudargas just put it in a Russian press interview–that Russia-Belarus “integration” is strictly a matter for those two countries). Lithuania “does not question their right” and expects in turn that Russia will respect Lithuania’s right to choose its partners. Lithuania wants all sides to follow the principle that sovereign countries are entitled to join alliances of their choice (BNS and Respublika (Vilnius), January 4; Russian agencies, December 31, January 3).

That approach, if followed, would imply a trade-off whereby Moscow tacitly “allows” Lithuania to join NATO while Belarus joins Russia in a union. The result would, in practice, amount to dividing the region in two spheres of influence. It is evidently beyond Lithuania’s power to become a party to any such deal with Russia. The officials in Vilnius who support the proposed radio station are those who would not abandon Belarus to its fate. While taking the long-term view of the situation, those officials are not oblivious to short-term considerations. They clearly realize that the consummation of the Russia-Belarus union would seriously complicate the defense posture of Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine and Poland.